A Camp Pendleton Marine that was recognized as the 2015 Marine Musician of the Year explains how his love of music led him to join the Marine Corps.
Music runs deep in the Marine Corps' history. The 1st Marine Division Band is there when a Marine rises up in the ranks, and they are there to honor Marines who fall.
Staff Sgt. Alex Panos was a musician first.
"I didn't even know the Marine Corps had a band," he said.
Panos will admit that he was a band nerd as a kid. He majored in trombone performance at San Diego State University.
"And tried to get some work as a musician, and it was really hard as you can imagine. So, I was just doing odd jobs on the side and playing music wherever I could," he explained.
Panos could not find the right fit at a place or with a band. Then, he met a Marine musician at a gig.
"He told me about it," Panos said. "He was like, 'You're pretty good; you should probably join."
Panos did join, and in 2013, he deployed to Afghanistan. He ditched his trombone for a rifle and a pistol. That struck a chord with him.
"You get to serve your country as a United States Marine," he said.
Panos is not that self-proclaimed band nerd anymore. He is a black belt Marine Corps martial arts instructor, as well as a high-caliber musician. But these days, he is a Marine first.
Panos received a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and a personalized Non-Commissioned Sword. He said it was a huge sense of accomplishment.